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News in brief: Sarah Richards starts as chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate; GSFW launches manifesto for Scottish election

Words: Laura Edgar

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 15 March, 2016

Sarah Richards starts as chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate

Sarah Richards has started in her post as the new chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate.

The Department for Communities and Local Government announced in December that Richards would be taking up the role.

She was previously the strategic director of regeneration, housing and resources at Slough Borough Council, a post she held from 2013.

Richards began her career at the Greater London Authority, progressing to the director of planning for Test Borough Council before setting up and leading the Planning Advisory Service. She has also spent time at Essex Borough Council as director of sustainable environment enterprise and as head of strategic commissioning.

She said: “I’m very excited about taking up the role as chief executive and taking the reins of this well-respected organisation. Across the wide range of its casework, the Planning Inspectorate is integral to ensuring a swift planning system is in place for all, from individual citizens through to major developers and corporations.”

Richards takes over from acting chief executive Steve Quartermain.

Budget reports

Reports by several news organisations suggest that Chancellor George Osborne will allocate £300 million to transport and infrastructure projects in tomorrow’s Budget.

The money has been broken down into allocations for several different projects, including £60 million to improve rail links in the north of England; £75 million to develop plans for a trans-Pennine tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester and the introduction of a Crossrail 2 bill.

Additionally, reports suggest that £1.2 billion will allocated to release brownfield land sites to build 30,000 starter homes.

Cardiff city deal expected to be announced

A city deal for the Cardiff Capital Region, worth £1.3 billion, is expected to be signed later ahead of chancellor George Osborne’s 2016 Budget.

The deal is expected to include the South Wales metro, aimed at improving travel in the capital and surrounding area.

The Welsh Government has said the city will focus on connectivity and business support.

GSFW launches manifesto for Scottish election

Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GSFW) has launched its manifesto for the Scottish election.

Investing in and protecting community-controlled housing associations will help it continue to contribute to a wide range of Scottish Government agendas, says the GSFW.

The manifesto includes a number of recommendations for the future government, including:

  • Investment in new homes – The Scottish Government should work towards an Affordable Housing Supply Programme target of 12,000 new affordable homes a year, at least two thirds of which should be for social rent.

  • Forced sale of vacant and derelict land.

  • Keeping housing associations independent.

The manifesto and list of recommendations can be found here (pdf). 

60% of construction bosses started out as apprentices

Nearly 60 per cent of construction owners began their careers as apprentices, according to research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Released as part of National Apprenticeship Week, the research also suggests that more than half of those bosses were running their own company within seven years of completing their apprenticeship training. Additionally, 98 per cent of construction small medium enterprise (SME) owners value an apprenticeship over a degree when looking for new members of staff.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Even if running your own firm isn’t what you aspire to do, a construction apprenticeship can nevertheless provide the foundation for a highly rewarding career. Almost 80 per cent of our SME construction bosses said that employment in the sector offers high levels of job satisfaction with tangible results and 87 per cent believe an apprenticeship teaches useful and practical skills.

The research was compiled from a survey of 118 FMB members, who were all SME business owners in the construction industry.

Office-to-residential rights will be made permanent

The government has confirmed that permitted development rights will be made permanent from 6 April.

Permitted development rights, which see offices converted to homes, were introduced on a temporary basis in May 2013.

An amendment to the Town & Country Planning Act 2015 was given parliamentary assent last Thursday (10th March), stating “(Article 7) makes permanent the existing temporary right to change a building used as an office into residential use.”

Areas including parts of central London and Manchester city centre will be allowed to bring into effect article 4 directions to remove the rights if they want to, according to the legislation.

Niral Patel, partner for Stiles Harold Williams Development Consultancy said the confirmation of permitted development rights being made permanent “will help to remove existing uncertainty in the market, thereby freeing up redundant capacity to help solve the current housing shortage”. More information can be found here.

Somerset Premier Inn to go ahead

A 69-bedroom Premier Inn has been given planning permission in Wells, Somerset.

Planning consultancy Turley secured the consent.

The Premier Inn in Wells is part of hospitality group Whitbread’s expansion, which sees the company aiming for 75,000 Premier Inn hotel rooms across the UK by 2018.

Paul Smith, acquisition manager for Premier Inn, said: “We are delighted to have gained planning permission for our new 69-bedroom Wells Premier Inn. The new hotel will deliver £5.8 million in fresh investment and create 25 new year-round jobs for the local area. Now we have approval, we look forward to starting work on site around June this year before opening our doors to customers in spring 2017.”

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